Parashat Metzora

The Cursed House

The image of a house afflicted with a plague encourages us to examine what real and metaphorical plagues afflict our own homes and societies.

Print this page Print this page

Your Guide

If, as our Sages suggest, the house affected by the plague "was stated for the purpose of edification," what does this passage teach us?

What are the plagues in our homes today? In addition to the literal understanding of mold as described by Lisa Belkin, how can we interpret the metaphor of plagues (e.g., slander and moral decay) in our homes?

How would Nachmanides and Peli suggest that we "purify" our own homes?

Deuteronomy 22:8 states that building a parapet prevents bringing bloodguilt on a house. Can houses, like people, carry responsibility or become infected?

Many modern-day plagues affect our society. How can we address and overcome afflictions such as homelessness and poverty in our own communities?

D'var Torah

Some present-day readers will find contemporary relevance in the section about tzara'at of houses (Leviticus 14:34-38), relating it to molds that we find today in many homes, regardless of economic level. Since early rabbinic times, however, Jewish commentators have understood this passage as a metaphor. Some of our homes may be afflicted with malicious gossip or baseless hatred. Other homes may show signs of sickness or affliction within families. As Rashi points out, we must be cautious when using these descriptions since the words themselves carry great weight.

Sometimes a house, representing the household, can bear an affliction and itself carry responsibility. This is not unlike the bloodguilt that can fall upon a house the construction of which is unsafe (see Deuteronomy 22:8).

"House" can also refer to the community, as in "House of Israel." How many of our communities are afflicted with poverty and homelessness? How many homes in our communities need repair and attention for them to be safely inhabitable again and become centers of life instead of centers of blight?

Our responsibility as Jews requires us to purge our own homes of the plagues that might affect them, to assume responsibility for the guilt we may carry into our houses, and to repair and restore all the dwelling places in our own communities.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Rabbi Fred Reiner

Rabbi Fred Reiner is the senior rabbi of Temple Sinai, Washington, D.C.